Some of the most bizarre stats you will ever see in Twenty20 games added excitement to the chase, but in the end Chennai Super Kings pushed Mumbai Indians out of the tournament - barring even more bizarre permutations later on. Chasing 148 Matthew Hayden had scored at various points in his innings 5 off 16, 9 off 23, and 20 off 33. His first boundary came off the 34th ball he faced (better believe all this), but he hung in till the end as Mumbai lost yet another close game after having bowled exceptionally well in the first half of their defence. Chennai now are formalities short of making it to the semi-finals.
One of the litmus tests of exceptional players is how well they do when they are performing below themselves. Hayden passed that test today. The Mumbai bowlers were effective in keeping him down, especially Lasith Malinga and Dwayne Bravo who set the tone, not giving him the length balls at all. In their first spells Malinga and Bravo bowled 11 balls to Hayden for just one run. But for a wide, Malinga even bowled a maiden. He also took Parthiv Patel's wicket first ball, the 10th time a wicket has fallen to the first ball of an innings in this IPL.
It would have been easy then for Hayden to try something outrageous to either hit out or get out. But he swallowed his ego, waited for his opportunities. How he looked during the struggle didn't seem to matter. Following Malinga and Bravo, Harbhajan Singh and JP Duminy kept it tight too, giving away 21 in overs 7 to 10.
At the strategy time-out Chennai needed 92. S Badrinath gave them a six in the first over after, but he fell in the same over. And Hayden went back to the grind again. Finally, in the 13th over, Hayden hit a four, off a short one from Chetanya Nanda, and then three more to never let the asking-rate cross 10. He got good support from MS Dhoni, who scored 23 off 22, and ran superbly between the wickets.
That the win came with five balls to go takes away from how close the teams were. They needed 27 off the last three overs when Harbhajan was brought back. A sloppy throw from Yogesh Takawale meant Hayden retained the strike, and Hayden hit a six next ball to provide the final twist. That six took him to 51 off 51, 31 runs coming off the last 18 balls. Now we're talking.
Mumbai, who have become the embodiment of "so near and yet so far", will look back at the final few overs of both innings as the ones that made the difference. Duminy, their most consistent batsman this season, got to his IPL best, but the Mumbai batsmen couldn't get the big hits then that would have taken the total from the realms of the competitive to the challenging. At 105 for 3 after 16 overs, they looked primed for a big assault, but could manage just 42 more, and 16 of them in the last two.
In a must-win game for Mumbai, Jayasuriya had answered the call early. A move up the order seemed to have worked. After two quiet overs the vintage Jayasuriya was on display, short-arm-jabbing fours and sixes to the leg side, and lofting a six over point. But just when it seemed one of those famous Jayasuriya innings that end the match in the first quarter itself was on, he skied one from Sudeep Tyagi, but not before he had put the Mumbai innings on its way. In two overs, the score went from 16 for 1 to 49 for 2, and Jayasuriya went from 2 off 7 to 30 off 17.
Duminy capitalised on that start, setting Mumbai up, despite tight bowling by spinners in the middle overs and the loss of Sachin Tendulkar in the 11th over for the second time this tournament. Abhishek Nayar and Duminy batted sensibly till the 16th over, adding 31 in the next 5.1 overs. In the 17th over, Duminy, who had until then relied mainly on his exceptional running between the wickets to get 35 off 40, opened up, but a smart 19th over from L Balaji robbed them of the momentum. Chennai scored 30 off the last 13 balls they faced, Mumbai 17.